Browsing Tag

sex

Guest Posts, Intimacy, Sex

Sex, Intimacy, and Genetic Incompatibility

April 28, 2017
intimacy

By Becky Benson

The first time it happened I thought it was great.  Easier, less messy, a change up from the norm.  Win/win for me.  I didn’t particularly like condoms; the feel, the smell, the timeout in the heat of the moment while fumbling over a loudly crackling wrapper.  How romantic.  And I’m sure my husband was no fan of them, but it did make it better for me once we were done.  He’d just pull it off and toss it in the trash.  I didn’t have to lay there waiting for him to throw me his t-shirt to clean up with, I could just happily roll over and drift off to sleep.

The only problem with this scenario:  we needed them, which made it feel less like a novelty, a change up from the norm, and more like a reminder of what we were now facing, and how in so many ways, our relationship; our sex life would never be the same.

In 2009 my husband, Loren and I had been happily married for six and a half years.  Loving, committed, stable.  We had two beautiful daughters, Skylar, five, and Miss Elliott, ten months, when we learned that we were carriers of Tay-Sachs Disease.  We had no idea this genetic mutation existed in our lineage or that we had passed it on to our youngest daughter, who at this point was beginning to shows signs of missing her milestones as she grew.  Watching my seemingly healthy infant unable to master age appropriate tasks such as crawling, holding her bottle, and or imitating our speech, I suspected something much more was going on beside the usual variances in development, and unfortunately I was right.  With no treatment or cure, this neurodegenerative disorder would rob her of all of her physical and mental functioning before finally taking her life by the age of four. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting, Sexual Assault/Rape

The Conversation We’re Not Having With Our Sons

March 26, 2017

By Amy Hatvany

I don’t remember my parents talking to me about sex, other than making it clear that opening my legs to a boy before I got married was a sin. What I do remember is thinking that I was a lesbian because I masturbated—I knew girls who touch other girls were gay, so if I touched myself, didn’t that mean the same thing? I was confused, ill-informed, and scared, so I shoplifted a Penthouse Letters magazine when I was in middle school, desperate to understand my own body and if the raging, hormonal urges that sometimes took me over were normal. But instead of validation, what I found were graphic stories of women who submitted to men’s forceful, probing mouths, fingers, and dicks. These women protested at first—some of them even said no—but soon found themselves swooning, powerless to resist the “pleasure” of violation.

Years later, I would wonder if what I learned about consent from these descriptions—that it was a man’s job to make a woman realize what she really wanted; that her “no” was simply waiting to be turned into a yes—was part of what kept me from telling anyone about the boy who unzipped his jeans and jammed his erection into the back of my throat when we were sitting together in the front seat of his car. I was on the edge of fifteen, and he was older, someone I knew, someone I’d had a crush on, and so I didn’t fight, I didn’t try to stop him. I only endured, waiting for the pain and paralyzing terror of what he was doing to loosen its vice-like grip on my chest. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Relationships, Sex

When It’s Not Love You Want

March 5, 2017
sex

By Kerry Neville

The first time I had sex was with my summer-before-college boyfriend on his gurgly waterbed in his dank, basement bedroom.  His mother winked at us as she left the house, and said, “Be careful, you two.”  She was a dancer, so maybe more open to bodies moving and touching and wrapping around each other than my own Catholic mother who counseled me on the sanctity of my body and warned that when you sleep with someone, you sleep with everyone they slept with before, a forbidding chain of penises-in-vaginas stretching back to the Neolithic Age.  I fell somewhere between Momma as condom dispenser and Momma as abstinence advocate: I was ready for sex but in order to make it happen, I needed to chug Budweisers.  More than one.  So the boy and I sat on the edge of the waterbed which sloshed beneath us like it had gastrointestinal issues, and polished off a few quick cans of beer.

My body was ready.  After all, I’d been studying my father’s old Playboys in the attic since I was eight, taking note of the rounded slopes of butts and boobs, and glossy lips parted mid-sigh. Also, years of self-practice, so just a matter of alignment.  And there was pleasure, sort of.  It wasn’t his first time, so things went where they were supposed to instead of say, misfiring into my armpit.  The problem though, was when we were done and rolled away from each other.  I wiped my eyeliner smudges with the back of my hand, and he shimmied back into his jeans, and I decided to be even braver: “I love you,” I said, with a desperate kind of hope.

He was quiet, and my heart whoosh-thumped in my ears because I knew he wasn’t going to say what I wanted him to say.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “I don’t feel that way.”

My little eighteen year old heart dissolved in shame.  I’d assumed mutual feeling inside that mutualish pleasure.  The three beers not only loosened my jeans but my words, too.  Meaning making where there was no meaning other than two bodies reaching their expected conclusions. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage, Sex

Sex Should Satisfy You Both

February 10, 2016

By Anonymous

This is a very real subject for me. I grew up with a narcissist mother who made me feel like I was not enough, worse, that I would never be enough. My first marriage happened mainly because I was pregnant and ended because we never should have been married. I finally met someone, a man who was kind and honest and everything I needed.

We got married and soon after, I became aware that, like lots of men, he had watched some porn. But it was more than that, what he watched dominated what he wanted in the bedroom. This wonderful man who was great husband and provider outside of the bedroom, wanted me in 6 inch stripper heels and making up stories about me fucking other men in the bedroom. It was baffling. I went along.

I had been so screwed up that I actually thought it wasn’t a big deal at first. But then, it became every time. Every time. There were dildos, butt plugs, costumes, outrageous shoes purchased for me by him. He also took me on romantic vacations where outside the hotel, we were happy and normal. In the hotel, it was filthy town. I never said no. I thought I must have done something to make him think I wanted this. It had to be my fault. My fault.

I finally said I hated it and now I am in therapy learning lots about myself and why I let this continue for years. YEARS. I never thought I could just say no, because him wanting this made sense to me, because it was ingrained in me that I was not enough. That was the insecurity planted in me from a young age by my mother. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Alcoholism, Binders, Guest Posts, Intimacy, Sex

Facts of Life

October 15, 2015

By Carol Weis

You discover your daughter has learned the facts of life. She is only seven when this profound experience occurs. Your husband has taken over this duty you thought would be yours. One your mother never shared with either you or your sister. You’d find out from your cousin when you were both nine. An image that would repulse you for a very long time. Your anger and grief about losing this right of passage with your daughter, your only child, becomes just another sticker in your already thorny side.

Sex is a thing that is hard to think about. It was your husband’s last straw, and one you have no interest in sharing with anyone but yourself. You occasionally flirt with guys at AA meetings, with no intention of going anywhere with it.

A habit that lingers from your drinking years.

And then the day comes in therapy, when it seems that your therapist might be at her wits end with both of you. She suggests you go on an overnight date, away for a night without your daughter, sleeping in the same bed without having her around.

It’s not that you haven’t tried a version of this before. Since your separation, you’ve slept overnight at his apartment, with ground rules about sleeping in the same bed. If he makes advances when you feel you’re not ready, he has to respect what you say. You’re more like a brother and sister right now, laying next to each other in your parent’s double bed.

His attempts at intimacy are always turned down. Continue Reading…

Gender & Sexuality, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Young Voices

In My Mother’s Bathroom

September 23, 2015

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station: This is a piece for my “Young Voices” series. I am looking for more young voices to publish so please submit if you have something to say. Please note, if you are under 18 you must have parental permission unless you are using a pseudonym. I am so excited to be working on the book Girl Power: You Are Enough, as well as the workshop for young women which has been a HUGE success so far. Please help me spread the word and sign up or sign your daughters/nieces/friends. I am also in the process of selecting ambassadors to represent #GirlPowerYouAreEnough. More information on this on my instagram at @jenpastiloff. Love, Jen

In My Mother’s Bathroom
By Emily Falkowski

Over the years I learned how to kiss girls without feeling like my abuser. This is one of the small ways in which my voice came knocking at my gut, demanding to be let in.

The first time I fooled around with a girl I was fourteen. I kissed Brianna up against the wall of the astronomy building at summer camp. I pushed my groin into hers and imagined Brianna pinned there against the brick, like moss.

“You’re so aggressive,” she said. “I didn’t expect this.”

“I’m sorry. I’m nervous. Should I stop?”

“No,” Brianna pushed her tits up at me when I grabbed her wrists with one hand and pinned them behind her back, “I like it. It’s like you’re a boy.”

When she said that I got intensely wet. I wanted to be a boy. I started to unzip her pants and imagined that I had a penis. How it would be hard and corporeal against her thigh, a real thing she could pull out of my pants. Then I would push Brianna onto the ground and make her fuck me with her mouth.

I pulled her left breast out off her bra and wrapped my mouth around the nipple. She said my name, and I felt my body go numb, I couldn’t feel anything below my belly button. This wasn’t surprising, I was used to this sort of thing happening when someone I was with said my name, or tried to touch me below the waist.

“Mmm, please don’t say my name right now.”

“Okay,” She giggled, “What do you want to be called?”

 

My earliest idea of womanhood is limited, defined by the sexual anatomy of a female. I’m four in my mother’s bathroom watching her dry off after a shower, wrapping her hair in a green towel and propping one leg up on the bath-tub. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Relationships, Sex

Meditations on Desire

September 23, 2015

By Caroline Kessler

 

It scares me sometimes how automatic my body is. When I get too drunk, body takes me home, puts my hands and face under warm water, plucks my contacts from my eyes. Sometimes body remembers to brush my teeth but not always.

They’ll tell you that drinking will kill your liver and that’s probably true but not-drinking will kill a different part of you. Not drinking means I don’t get the stories like when I was studying in India or working in Poland or daydreaming on a train through Hungary—the stories of meeting someone new, picking them up, having them pick me up.

The drinking will say, go for it! Do it all, it doesn’t matter, you charming thing. The drinking will say you’ve never looked this gorgeous, your hair all crazy and your dress all short. For a while, the drinking makes me sharp but then it makes me slow. Slow tongue in my mouth, thick against my teeth, words clanking around like cans in a gutter.

_________

One summer during college, I live in Warsaw, where I have an airy studio apartment all to myself and I can walk to my non-profit job. It is the first time I have ever lived alone and I bask in doing whatever I want.

There is a bar near my apartment frequented by ex-pats, which is where I first meet Daniel. We mumble through an attempt at an introduction: bardzo mi miło / nice to meet you. I give in and switch to English and it turns out he’s fluent and half-Jewish, nearly six feet tall but with bad posture so he doesn’t tower over me. He wears a black motorcycle jacket although he doesn’t drive a motorcycle. We don’t talk about our Jewishness but it is there, the wandering-exiled-questioning-impulse.

His speech is strange, full of language from all the other places he’s lived, Miami and Glasgow and Aalborg. He says what’s the crack? as a greeting and throws around that hurts like silver teeth a lot. When I find out his first language is Danish, I make him speak to me, enjoying the flawless music of it, even though I don’t understand a thing. While he talks, I wonder if I could be with someone who wasn’t able to speak their first language with me—would we ever truly understand each other?

After six years of medical school in Warsaw, he claims he has only learned useless Polish. What could be useless? I say. Let me listen to your lungs, his voice emerges over the din of the bar, first in Polish, then in English. Pozwól mi słuchać płuc. I study his broad shoulders and slight belly, his dark jeans and shiny European shoes. He is attractive enough, I decide. This is the moment when everything shifts.

We leave the bar for a nearby fountain, a block of quiet, because I said I was tired of being in the bar and he is going along with what I’m saying, how I’m gesturing. We decide to keep drinking. He ducks into a small store and I wait outside, feeling too indecisive to be surrounded by merchandise in a language I can’t read. He emerges with a plastic bag nearly breaking with beer bottles. I try to give him a few folded złotys but he refuses, waving them away like it’s silly I’m even offering. We settle near the burbling water. I got a sampler, he says, because you should try a bunch while you’re here this summer.

We keep talking, and he drinks quickly, picking up his third beer while I’m still on my first. The drinking urges me onward: this will make things easier. When he pauses, I put my hand to his breastbone, trying to figure out where his lungs are, huge and honeycombed.

Later, when we are in bed, I put my ear to his chest. Pozwól mi słuchać płuc. I say to his cavernous face, open your mouth. Turn over. He does—and then, he lifts me off of him, pushes my arms open until I am airborne.

Early the next morning, on the tram heading back to my apartment, tiny purse resting in my lap, the sun is blinding. I press my shoulders into the crease of the window. What am I doing? I ask the looming H&M billboards, the massive Palace of Culture and Science, the plastic orange seats in front of me.

_________

After college, I move to San Francisco and I meet so many men. They are everywhere, in their flannel button-downs and hooded sweatshirts, on their bikes or in their cars. I feel surrounded by masculinity. One night, my friend E. and I are at Zeitgeist in the Mission, having abandoned our guy friends we were with earlier that night, at a Shabbat dinner. We sip beers at the only open table, which is near the speaker, so we have to shout over the punk music.

She tells me about the different people she’s dating, the co-worker she’s in love with, her housemate who she “loves” and is moving out soon and I’m curious—so what do you really want? I shout.

Her eyes open wide, so genuine. I just want to love someone, she shouts back. The desire is the hands on a watch, pointing directly to the hour, minute, second.

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Relationships

The Heart Learns Nearly Nothing, But Just Enough, in One List

September 8, 2015

By Erin Khar

 

  1. Begin your sexual history, at least the consensual part, at age thirteen, with someone you don’t love and who probably doesn’t love you, and stay with him for two years, even though you are so young and don’t love him. (Do some heroin so you can ignore this problem.)
  2. Spend the rest of your adolescence in love with someone who will break your heart and don’t have intercourse.
  3. Begin sleeping with people as a way to distance yourself emotionally.
  4. Sleep with older guys who want to possess you but you’re on drugs and they don’t know it and you feel dead inside and they will want you more which is confusing.
  5. Realize that they haven’t always worn a condom and freak out every time you take an HIV test because you’ve slept with men with questionable hobbies and you should know better because you grew up in the age of AIDS after all and you end up okay but you know you dodged a bullet or more.
  6. Move in with a twenty-six year old man when you are eighteen and cheat on him and make him crazy, so crazy that he tries to poison your spaghetti dinner and you throw up all night, but don’t find out until after you broke up that he put fifty phenobarbital in said spaghetti.
  7. At the age of nineteen, on the heels of the spaghetti fiasco, have an affair with a forty-five year old married British singer who has a small penis and likes to hit you during sex.
  8. Abruptly end your affair with the married British singer over red wine and Leonard Cohen, and begin sleeping with the guy your best friend is in love with. (Rationalize this with the fact that he doesn’t love her back.)
  9. Spend the next two years in an open relationship with the guy your best friend loved, while starting and not finishing many many relationships, leaving a trail of angry men behind you, including the celebrity who stalks you because you keep telling him, “”
  10. Find out that the guy you loved when you were sixteen, who broke your heart, the one who you still loved, find out that he died of liver failure after drinking himself to death in the span of four years.
  11. When you are twenty-one, abruptly decide to leave your country and boyfriend and half-begun relationships and dead ex-boyfriend and move to Paris.
  12. Spend some months sleeping with rich Americans and a few Frenchmen, vowing to never fall in love again.
  13. Fall in love with a Frenchman who has a girlfriend.
  14. Attempt a friendship with said Frenchman, but then begin an affair and feel heartbroken all the time because he won’t leave the girlfriend he has had since high school.
  15. Feel relieved when Frenchman finally breaks up with girlfriend. (Later you will find out he didn’t really.)
  16. Return to Los Angeles with the man you love, who may or may not be disentangled from his previous relationship.
  17. After a disastrous couple of months, ship the Frenchman home and start using heroin again.
  18. Get strung out on heroin, using the money you have that you don’t deserve.
  19. Go back to being a heart-breaker rather than the heartbroken and do things like jump out a second-story window when the guy you just slept with tells you he is falling love with you.
  20. In a drug-induced flight of fancy, return to France and accept the Frenchman’s marriage proposal.
  21. Hide your heroin addiction from the Frenchman, at least until he catches you with a needle in your arm.
  22. Go to rehab at the age of twenty-three.
  23. Break up with your French fiancé while in rehab because you know he can never forgive you.
  24. Start sleeping with the thirty-three year old restaurant mogul you meet in rehab who didn’t do heroin like you but had a thing for cocaine and vodka and women.
  25. After rehab, break it off with the restaurant guy and feel bad when he starts using cocaine and vodka and women, again.
  26. Have a couple of unsatisfying one night stands with guys you meet in twelve-step meetings.
  27. Meet a thirty-two year old photographer who is also a recovering heroin addict and move in together three months later.
  28. Right after you fall for the photographer, meet a thirty-four year old writer who makes you dizzy and let him go down on you.
  29. Although you probably are falling in love with the writer, you shun him and stay with the photographer for three years, during which time you remain faithful.
  30. Until you meet the washed up rockstar who makes you laugh and is so much fun.
  31. Leave the photographer for the rockstar and then immediately regret it.
  32. Try to win the photographer back to no avail.
  33. Become depressed and then even more depressed when you realize that you are pregnant and don’t want to be.
  34. Have an abortion which destroys you. So, drive to your old dealer’s house later that day and begin a relapse of epic proportions.
  35. Drag your washed up rockstar boyfriend into the relapse and start smoking crack too.
  36. Go to rehab again and break up with the rock star.
  37. Focus on yourself for a few months, although you secretly fall for the guy you are recording music with to no avail, and have some meaningless dates with guys whose names you can barely remember.
  38. Meet a man who seems all wrong and avoid him.
  39. Sleep with the man who seems all wrong and ignore your friends’ warnings to stay away from him.
  40. Spend three months with the man who is all wrong, only to have him break up with you suddenly and break your ego, if not your heart.
  41. Allow your bruised ego to win him back stealthily, even though you know he’s no good for you.
  42. Find yourself pregnant again at twenty-eight, and marvel at your irresponsibility.
  43. Accept the wrong man’s marriage proposal against all better judgement.
  44. Come back from your honeymoon, only to discover that your husband has impregnated another woman.
  45. Somehow make it through a depressing pregnancy, avoiding all thoughts that your marriage is a sham.
  46. At the age of twenty-nine, give birth to a baby boy, and instantly be changed, instantly love him more than you hate yourself, let this little man in a baby’s body teach you how to love.
  47. Begin to realize that you know nothing, but still try to make that sad marriage work.
  48. Catch the man who seems all wrong who became your husband cheating on you.
  49. Catch the man who seems all wrong who became your husband cheating on you, again.
  50. As the love you have for your child grows, you know less but are sure of more. Finally, after two long pitiful years, leave the man who seems all wrong who became your husband.
  51. Enjoy a period of celibacy and know you know nothing.
  52. Finally, break your celibacy by sleeping with a bartender/artist.
  53. Get in to two long-distance relationships back to back, with men who live in New York, while you live in Los Angeles.
  54. Stay in the second one for more than four years, break up and get back together many times and break him and let him break you and begin to finally see your lack of experience.
  55. Break up with the guy who lives in New York, realize you have learned things but still know nothing.
  56. Meet a man who is like no one you have been with before.
  57. Fall in love with the right man, the man who is like no one you have been with before, despite yourself.
  58. Make some mistakes with the right man and don’t run away because of them.
  59. Let him teach you how to be loved.
  60. Marry him. You are finally still, with love. You know that your son taught you how to love and your husband taught you how to be loved. You know nothing else, but that’s all you need to know.

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Damaged

August 26, 2015

By Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons

Three months before my niece started sixth grade, we were walking to the local commuter trains station near my house. I was taking her to the symphony for her birthday. “I can’t believe you’re starting middle school,” I said. “Are you excited or scared?”

She thought for a moment. “Both.”

Out of the blue I said this: “Lizzie, if anything happens you don’t feel comfortable about, I want you to tell me. Or your mom. Promise?”

She looked at me as if she wanted to say what could happen to me? It’s just sixth grade. Part of it was I’ve been writing about a cold case about a girl who was killed years before. But it was something else, something more personal. In sixth grade I experienced something that was so awful, so shameful that I never wrote about it, nor did I ever talk about it. I wanted my niece to skip middle and high schools and go directly to college. I didn’t want her to be bullied. I wanted to protect her from the world.

It was two weeks before Christmas. Eighth grade girls were choreographing a dance set to Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” while others were singing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in the hallway.  All the girls were wearing Guess jeans. I wore Gitanos. One came up to me and said in all seriousness: “Oh my God, are you poor?”  Not only did she have Guess jeans, they were stonewashed.

I hated sixth grade with a full passion. I hated my core teacher, who had a thing about making sure we knew about prepositional phrases, making us diagram sentence after sentence. One time I forgot my reading book in my locker. She threatened to give me detention. She changed her mind, saying that she would write it on my progress report instead. When my mother read it, she looked at me and said “Well, stop making mistakes in that class. She wants a robot, not a student.” Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Sex, Sexuality

The Near Miss

July 19, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Lindsay Miller

When I was in high school, I dated an appalling-in-retrospect string of men five years or more my senior. I met most of them at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was where my friends and I spent our adolescent Saturday nights. The twentysomething men who hung out there treated us like adults, or what we imagined that to mean at fifteen: they smiled and nodded thoughtfully when we spoke, leaned in as though our every stray thought was fascinating. They made us feel respected, intelligent, mature.

I knew, abstractly, that older men who dated younger women – not women but girls, high school girls, girls not even old enough to drive – were creepy and better avoided. But for some reason it never occurred to me that that applied to my own life. The guys my friends and I dated made it seem like there was nothing strange about men in their twenties sexually pursuing teenage girls – after all, we were so old for our age. We were so wise. They had never met girls like us, girls who knew so much, girls who understood them so well. They told us this over and over, every one of them, like reading from a script: You’re so cool. You’re so different from all the others. When I was young, I didn’t understand that as an insult, lifting girls up in the singular while putting us down in the plural. I was dying to feel older, which I accomplished by wearing impossibly short skirts and sky-high platform shoes, carrying a tiny knife disguised as a tube of lipstick in my purse and feeling sly and dangerous. I wanted to feel desired, and the men I met were more than happy to comply – to tell me I was beautiful in my Hot Topic bustiers, breasts hiked to the collarbone, boots laced up to the knee.

On Saturday nights in high school, my curfew was five a.m. I told my parents that I spent those early morning hours hanging out in a diner with my friends, girls a year or two older than me who would drive me home. Some nights that was true. Some nights, though, I caught rides with men I’d never met before, circled the city endlessly or found places to park where the streetlights didn’t reach. Or my friends and I ended up back at someone’s house, one of those horrible shared houses that all men in their twenties seemed to live in: broken furniture, cigarette butts in beer bottles, nothing in the refrigerator. We sat awkwardly on lopsided couches making tense small talk while one girl or another disappeared into a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, giggling, hand in hand with a man five, seven, ten years her senior.

When I was fifteen, I dated a man named Michael. He was twenty-three and already divorced, had fled the state of Texas to get away from his ex-wife, who he said had broken his heart so badly he didn’t know if he could go on living. I found this tragically romantic, imagining I might be the one to heal his wounded soul. On Valentine’s Day, he gave me a rose, already wilting. He offered to buy me a cell phone so that he would be able to hear my voice whenever he wanted.

Later that year there was Steven. I don’t remember exactly how old he was, but he must have been at least twenty. The night we met, he pulled me away from my friends, around the dark side of a building into an alley where he pushed me up against a wall and kissed me so hard it made my teeth hurt. In the gray early morning hours, he took my friend Jocelyn and me back to his apartment, where we sat on the edge of a filthy couch watching Steven and his roommates smoke cigarettes and complain about their jobs. I can see now that their lives were small and grimy, with little joy besides driving fast and listening to loud music, playing pool in bars where the very air felt gritty and making out with girls too young to know better. But to me, back then, it seemed glamorous and important. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Sex

That Was 22

June 22, 2015

By Janet Frishberg

Don’t worry, that was just 22. You walked this city wanting love and not knowing where to find it. Not truly believing it would ever happen, and still hoping it would. Wanting someone, a sage or a wizened ancient, to tell you: you will find it. And thinking, this cannot be all there is. These cannot be the only jobs.

Don’t worry, that was 22: picking at your skin and then healing it, biting your nails down to the bloody edges. Obsessing over every single thing you bought as though it would lead directly to your financial ruin.

Don’t worry, these bars, these nights that led to nowhere but sore feet and sour mouth taste, and left you wiggling under the comforter emptier than before you walked out of the house, that was 22.

Paying too much for bad food, accepting invitations to dates and parties you didn’t actually want to go to, taking the bus home alone at one a.m. with your shoulders held tight because you didn’t have money for a cab—that was 22.

This night was 22, when you walked from bar to bar with a group of seven friends and wondered who you’d meet while out, even as you suspected the answer would be the same as it usually was: no one. Or at least no one who would matter.

Tonight, over drinks, curled in a row around the L-shaped edge of the bar, your friends asked about your weekend and you told them you weren’t sure how, but you slept with him again, that guy from last summer. It started with drinks this past weekend, plans to meet friends at a new wine bar. You realized what was going to happen when he kissed you while you two waited in line. The kiss was a surprise; you’d had no agenda. (This was rare.) You smiled on the sidewalk with his lips pressing on yours; it felt all the same between the two of you as during summer: just for fun, casual. Friendly, you could say. You were glad for the comfort. You didn’t even really mind that you hadn’t shaved your legs since you couldn’t remember when. Continue Reading…

Binders, Gender & Sexuality, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts

Brad, Interrupted. The One On Gendered Hypocrisy.

June 4, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Jen Pastiloff here. This is my blog. Welcome, if you’re new to the site. Originally, it was just my own writing, but when I realized I had a huge readership I decided to open it up as a platform for other writers. But excuse me while I say my two cents before said other writer steps in.

So, the other day I was in South Dakota (was leading a workshop there as I do a couple times a year) when someone sent me a Snap. As in SnapChat. (Yes, I am 12 years old now.) A mom had sent her teen (yay!) to my Seattle workshop and was all fired up because her daughter, Corrine, came home from school visibly upset after a talk they had been given at school. Her mom (Echo is her name and don’t you love her just for that?) sent me a clip of his video and his website. So there I was, in Sodak, about to lead a workshop and I got pissed. Real pissed. I was reminded why I am writing Girl Power: You Are Enough (which is with publishers right now- OMG) and I decided that I had to say something about this fella. Brad Henning is his name. So I made a cup of coffee and sat down my phone on my little tripod there on the kitchen table in Sioux Falls and I said this:

I then posted it on the interwebs and asked any of my writer friends if they would like to write an essay about it for my site. The beautiful Laurence Dumortier said she wanted to tackle it. Her last essay on the site blew my mind ( it is a must read) so I didn’t hesitate to say yes yes yes. Someone called me a YesSparker the other day. I like that. Yes.

After you read her essay I would a) Love it if you shared it.

b) I mean, I would really love it if you shared.

c) Create a dialogue around this.

I know not everyone agrees with Laurence and I. Some people have even given me shit for bringing this up. I refuse to stay quiet though. I am not suggesting that Brad is a bad man, I just believe his methods are antiquated and his message is outdated and involves shaming. Shaming is never okay.

Also, I am a feminist and his message just rubs me wrong. It feels misogynistic and tired and frankly, the opposite of what I am teaching out in the world. Girl Power: You Are Enough. No matter what Brad, or any other person, says. I hope to see some of you at the launch of the Girl Power workshops September 19th and 20th in Princeton and NYC. Oh yea, and Lena Dunham followed me this morning on Twitter. Girls + Girl Power: You Are Enough. Kapow!!

ps- This is who I am writing my book for. Teens like Nicole. So brave. Eff yea! Last year she was suicidal but today she is saying, “I am enough.” So, can I get another EFF YEA! Fuck yea!

Here is the video Echo sent me. (Brad goes to schools and gives this lecture.) I have actually heard he is a lovely man. I am not taking away from his loveliness. But please, when it comes to this, he doesn’t seem to be the right person for this job.

Brad, Interrupted by Laurence Dumortier

Brad Henning is a self-styled relationship expert who visits schools to talk to students about dating. To the question “Why do girls wear makeup?” (Brad likes to style things as a Q&A) his answer is: “Would a guy want to take a girl out on a first date, if he could see what she looks like when she first wakes up in the morning the same way her parents do? Probably not.” Despite professing this kind of sexist nonsense, Brad Henning is paid by school districts to speak to teenagers about sex and relationships. Let that sink in for a moment.

When I mentioned to a friend that I’d been reading, with a mixture of fascination and horror, about Brad Henning’s work, she wondered if it was the same Brad she’d had to listen to a dozen years before during a high-school assembly. A little research confirmed it was. After a moment she reflected, “I will never forget how much I was shamed for being overly sensitive/humorless/man-hating/slutty/bad both during and after that fucking assembly senior year of high school.” This essay is for her and for all the girls who had to listen to Brad’s lectures, and haven’t forgotten what it felt like to be chided and shamed.

Henning is a fan of the pseudo-evolutionary-biology—bogus in both in its premises and its explanations—that asserts as fact things like: guys are insatiably horny, you see, so that the species won’t die out! And also, girls have low sex-drive, on the other hand, so that the planet doesn’t get over-populated! Worse still, though, Henning promotes the tired falsehoods that form the backbone of rape culture. “The girls who give sex to their boyfriends outside of marriage,” Henning writes, “are undermining the maturing process guys need so badly.” Guys, Brad decrees, cannot control their sexual appetites. They need girls to do that for them. Girls who don’t do that make boys powerless to resist their own urges. (Is it any wonder, when girls are raped, that they run into so much victim-blaming?)

In one of his vignettes, Henning conjures a fairy-tale prince. He’s sowed his wild oats but now he’s looking to settle down:

Handsome, rugged, self sufficient…He’s the hero and he’s looking for his fair maiden. When he sees her for the first time, he is mesmerized by her beauty and charm. He longs for her… But then…of all the dastardly things…he finds out she has been with just about every guy in the realm. He realizes his fair maiden isn’t as fair as he’d hoped. Does he want to fight for her hand? No. This isn’t what he’s dreamed about all his life. He’s been dreaming about “A FAIR MAIDEN” not the town slut.

Never mind that the prince himself is not a virgin, it’s the girl who is disdained as a “town slut.” (I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that rape victims, if they go public, are forced to account for their whole past sexual history, as though it had anything to do with the assault in question.)

Of a girl who has already had sex but would still like to have a loving relationship, Henning takes the chilling position: “But now it’s too late for her… She can’t just change her mind about being wild like the guys.” This double-standard is not just bizarre and unfair, but actually dangerous. It reinforces the cultural script that girls who have had sex are, in fact, damaged goods, worthless and irreparably marred. The implied question is: why should boys bother to reign in their raging sexual appetites with a girl who “gives it away”? I can’t decide whether it is more heartbreaking or rage-inducing that girls are made to listen to this toxic garbage.

Even worse, Henning—not content with pushing the gendered hypocrisy of his ideas about sex, or even the shamey, rapey tone of his relationship advice—has let his opinions about girls wander even farther afield, sermonizing about their appearance, their tastes, their habits and mannerisms, the very expression of their feelings. That an older man would feel entitled to dictate a girl’s feelings to herself is, unfortunately, not all that surprising. But the endorsement of this bizarre intrusion by school districts that invite and pay Henning to come to their schools, and then force girls to sit through this awfulness, is perhaps the saddest and most angering thing of all.

Against that sadness and anger, here is a small but heartfelt gesture of imagination and hope:

In the part of his lecture where Brad intones, unimpeded, about all the many things girls do that “turn guys off,” I imagine, instead, a voice flooding the auditorium, warm and loving and at times a little sarcastic, interrupting the dude onstage in order to offer girls an alternate point of view. One that sees no need to control girls’ behavior, but instead believes in their intelligence and good-sense and inherent value.

In italics, then, excerpts from Brad Henning’s talk—interrupted by the voice of feminine wisdom and trust.

Since you asked the question about what turns guys off, here’s a list of them!

I don’t think we did, actually, but it should be good for a chuckle.

Turn-offs:

Girls who giggle (guys think you’re laughing at them)

How timely! Girls, gather round, permission is hereby granted to giggle, to guffaw, even to cackle. It’s not your job to worry what others think of it. (By the way, most of the time girls aren’t laughing at a guy. But this time, in fact, we are!)

 

Girls who never smile

I love you, April Ludgates of the world. Don’t ever change just because some Brad wants you to.

 

Girls who have lost their mystery

I don’t know what the fuck this means. What is this? Is it code for “girls who’ve lost their virginity”? Gross. The fetishizing of virginity is one of the creepiest and most loathsome things about patriarchal culture. Please ignore.

 

Girls who need every hair in place

You do you. Be as polished or as scruffy as you want.

 

Girls who never stop talking

Talk away. I like the things you say.

 

Girls who are boy-crazy

Brads feel threatened that girls are capable of desire. It makes them uneasy that girls may, at times, be boy-crazy or girl-crazy or both. But Brads don’t get a say over how you feel. You can be giddy, or horny, or dizzy with infatuation. I’ll hold this space for all your emotions.

 

Girls who brag about their grades

Go for it, love. You earned it.

 

Girls who cry all the time

It’s okay to cry. It’s okay for boys to cry too.

 

Girls who always need attention

Everyone needs attention. You matter, too.

 

Girls without a mind of their own

Gracious, the irony! Girls can think for themselves, no thanks to Brad, though.

 

Girls who “screech” when they see their friends

It is a magical thing to be in the presence of those who really get you, and love you for who you are. Lord knows, Brads won’t do that for you. So screech your joy if you want. Caw, whistle, yodel, sing. It’s all good.

 

Girls who can’t take a joke

Especially rape jokes, right?!

 

Girls who make everything seem like it’s the guy’s fault

What can I say? It’s true. Obnoxious guys like Brad don’t like to be held accountable.

 

 

Girls who “tell all”

Speak your truth. Secrets empower abusers.

 

Girls who take things too seriously and are overly sensitive

If I could gather all the serious and sensitive girls in the world and give them a hug, I would. If I could gather all the flirty and funny girls, I’d give them a hug too. Often these are the same girls, for we are complex and multi-faceted. Brads would rather we be small, narrow, predictable and easy to control. But we are large and contain multitudes and won’t easily be subdued.

 

About Laurence Dumortier: I’m finishing up a PhD in English with an emphasis on gender and sexuality. My short stories have been published in One Story as well as smaller magazines. I’m at work on my first novel, set in the early 1960s. My twitter handle is @ElleDeeTweets.

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC.

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for June 20th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for June 20th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body? To get into your words and stories?  Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.  "So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff's Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing." ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body?
To get into your words and stories? Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.
“So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff’s Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing.” ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

 

Binders, Guest Posts, love

For The Days You Weep At Flowers

May 16, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Elise Schmelzer

It started again because I slept with another guy I didn’t love.

His name is Juan and after we fucked we lay on the bed in silence, churning our thoughts in different languages — mine the English of Texas, his the Spanish of Buenos Aires. It’s harder to bridge the gap of a mutual looming nothingness in halting shared second-languages.

But I lay there and thought about you, babe. And I’m pretty sure he was thinking about a girl he had met in France and had to leave because student visas only last so long. I knew it when he rolled over on his side, his back to me, and I didn’t feel hurt. I felt like I understood because, hell, I wanted to do the same to him and all my half-baked lovers.

But I didn’t want him to suspect the weight I suddenly felt in my bones. I’m still surprised I didn’t sink the bed through the floor of his small apartment with the sudden gravity of it all.

This sudden deluge of being is something I’ve known for about two years now. The great sinking. The sads. Whatever euphemism I’ve fashioned to calm my fear about its return. On these days when I’ve just wrapped my hair in its post-shower towel and am suddenly leaning on the moist tile wall sobbing the code words for my depression don’t really help a lot. Continue Reading…

Anonymous, Guest Posts

Master of One.

April 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anonymous

I learned how to give a blowjob at ten. By eleven, I was an expert. No matter how many hours I spent in front of the TV with a worn Atari controller clutched in my hand, I could never locate Indiana Jones’ Ark of the Covenant. But I could suck one off like a sorority girl after too many upside-down margaritas.

He was a young 20-something, our trusted neighbor. His hair was long, his eyes warm and sad. Sometimes he and his roommate made dinner when Mom stayed late at work to balance the books. For my birthday, he bought Bob Seger’s “Nine Tonight” album and wrapped it with a blue bow – my favorite color. It was an extravagant gift, one my single mom couldn’t afford. But that boy surprised and delighted me. I played the record over, over, over on Mom’s RCA turntable. I memorized every lyric. Sometimes I stood on the coffee table and sang “Hollywood Nights” at the top of my lungs. My hairbrush was my microphone. I was good.

***

I’ve always found it difficult to say no. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings, don’t want to disappoint. I over-commit and under-deliver. Yes, I’ll organize the preschool party. Yes, I’ll bake four dozen cookies for the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon. Yes, I’d love to take that freelance project. Yes, I’ll edit your manuscript. Yes, I’ll watch your kids.

(P.S. I don’t even like your kids.)

Yes is easier than no. Smooth sailing more enjoyable than whitecaps.

***

My young world was a wonderland of 1970s magic dressed in cut-off jeans. I explored overgrown cornfields, built forts with discarded lumber, beat all the neighborhood boys in sunset games of “Horse.” I hid myself in chicken wire basement storage bins so I could read uninterrupted, the chug of washing machines in the background, the scent of Downy dryer sheets floating on the hot air. I scribbled poems and short stories in my Strawberry Shortcake notebooks. I played 4-Square, SPUD, and Kick the Can until it was time for Kraft macaroni and cheese and a cold glass of 2% milk served on my TV tray, the one with the fold-out metal legs. I wore halter tops knotted around my freckled neck and smoked the butts of my mom’s discarded Merit Ultra Lights.

I gave myself the Sign of the Cross every time I walked into church, asked Jesus for forgiveness in the dark Confessional. “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. It’s been six days since my last Confession. I lied to my mom, tattled on my sister, and had impure thoughts.” I never named the act itself. It seemed an unsavory thing to discuss in a church. I knew He knew. I hoped He forgave. I listened to the nuns, readied my soul for the kingdom of heaven with Hail Marys and Acts of Contrition.

I rode my bike to the drugstore and bought Jolly Rancher sour apple sticks with the change I found under the couch cushions. I sucked their tips into sharp, dangerous points.

 ***

When I think about my childhood, I don’t first think about fellatio. In fact, I can barely recall the pungent scent of stale sweat, the smell of nervousness and sin. There was beer, and often, pot. He smoked the pot. I drank the beer. The smoky haze in the apartment was much more tolerable with an evenly matched fog in my head. Sometimes I drank enough to throw up. I did not understand my limits. He would wipe my face with a warm washcloth, would tune into “Laverne & Shirley” while I rested on the couch, the room swirling and spinning around me. “Schlemiel, Schlimazel. Hasenpfeffer Incorporated.” The couch was faded and worn and smelled slightly of mothballs and bacon. I sank into it, disappeared into the dingy plaid.

He loved me, this boy. He told me so every time.

I loved him back.

But most of all, I loved my mom. My hard-working, breathtaking, raven-haired hero.

***

Once I perfected the oral art form, it was easily transferable. I honed my skills on awkward freshmen with unskilled hands, high school quarterbacks and their cement abs, heavy-breathing frat boys, and strangers in bars. My lips were all-knowing, all-powerful.

I was invincible.

The decision to spit or swallow came later. In the beginning, it wasn’t a conscious choice, but a physical reaction. Later, I chose what I wanted.

Ingest? Expel?

Blowjobs as a metaphor for life. Continue Reading…